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Leech First Aid

Leeches might seem scary, but they’re actually fascinating creatures that have been used in medical therapy for years. Although their presence can be unnerving, leech ‘bites’ are usually harmless and can be removed without needing medical attention. It’s important to watch for signs of infection or allergic reactions, but these occurrences are quite rare.

Contrary to popular belief, leeches don’t bite; they latch onto your skin using suction. Most people don’t feel a leech feeding until they see the blood afterwards. Leeches can cause itchiness for a few hours or even a day, but removing them quickly and safely can minimize discomfort.

Removal Rationale

There isn’t much medical research on the best techniques for leech removal. Using methods harmful to the leech, like applying salt, fire, pulling, or sprays – may cause the leech to regurgitate. A leech regurgitating into a wound, especially before removal, may increase the risk of infection. Breaking the suction with a fingernail or credit card can remove the leech more quickly without giving it time or reason to regurgitate.

Preventing Leech Encounters

Leeches are typically found in warm, moist areas and use heat and carbon dioxide sensors to locate hosts. They usually wait on the ground or plants, attaching to passing people and migrating to areas with softer skin.

Clothing: Wearing long pants tucked into socks or using anti-leech socks and gaiters can help prevent leeches from finding soft skin to latch onto. However, covering up also makes it harder to spot a leech if it does attach.

Repellent: Applying insect repellent before heading out can discourage leeches from latching on. Some clothing can be treated with repellent, and it can also be applied to the skin. However, using repellent to remove a leech is not recommended due to the risk of infection from regurgitation.

First Aid for Leech ‘Bites’